About operaramblings

Toronto based lover of opera, art song and related music

The Book of My Shames

headshot-isaiah-bell-2017-websizedThis is what would happen if the opera singing love child of Noel Coward and Sylvia Plath was encouraged by his therapist to perform on “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids”. – Isaiah Bell

Isaiah Bell’s The Book of My Shames has something in common with Teiya Kasahara’s Queer of the Night.  Both are one queer shows dealing very directly and honestly with aspects of being queer and both are very impressive singers.  There perhaps the comparison pretty much ends for while Teiya’s show was about the tribulations of being gay in the opera world Isaiah’s piece is about growing up gay in a seriously dysfunctional environment.

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Pomegranate premiere

Last night Pomegranate; music by Kye Marshall, words by Amanda Hale, opened at Buddies in Bad Times.  Inspired by the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, it tells the story of two lesbian lovers.  Cass has broken up with Suzy in 1980s Toronto.  She visits Pompeii as a tourist and is carried back in time to meet her lover in a previous incarnation in the Temple of Isis.  There’s a whole act dealing with the Mysteries, Cassia and Suli’s burgeoning relationship and the attempt by the Roman state to suppress the religion.  Then Vesuvius erupts.  Fast forward to Act 2 in a lesbian bar in Toronto.  Suzy, an immigrant from some unspecified war zone is pressured by her family to break up with Cass.  There’s a slightly surreal byt dramatically satisfying epilogue where modern Cass reunites with Roman Sulli in the ruins of Pompeii.

Pomegranate-photobyDahliaKatz-1363

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The Adventures of Pinocchio

I’ve been impressed by Jonathan Dove’s art songs so I was glad to be able to take a look at one of his operas.  It’s The Adventures of Pinocchio and it was recorded in a production by Opera North at Sadlers Wells in 2008.  I feel a bit ambivalent about it.  I really like the music but I’m not hugely engaged by the libretto.  I think this is largely because of the subject matter so it may come off better for someone else.
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Royal Conservatory 2019/20

ldspThe RCM 2019/20 season has been announced.  It’s the usual mix of chamber, orchestral, piano, jazz, world music, the completely indefinable and, of course, vocal.  There are 91 concerts in total.  With such a wide range of material it’s hard to imagine anybody being interested in all of it or, conversely, anybody unable to find something to their taste.  My tastes, of course, run largely to classical vocal music so what follows is what I find most interesting: Continue reading

Appropriate redress

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Ian Cusson

Two years ago when Harry Somers’ Louis Riel was revived in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec there was considerable debate about the appropriation of a traditional Nsga’a morning song; the Kuyas.  Basically in the culture the song comes from transmission and use of songs are regulated by the traditional owners.  This particular music had been used to set the text of a lullabye that Riel’s wife sings to their child, originally without attribution.  In 2017 the decision was made to use it again though not without consultation, debate and acknowledgement.  See my comments about the issue on opening night here.

It’s fair to say that I don’t think anybody thought the status quo was really acceptable and a great deal of discussion has gone on leading to an announcement this morning that the music will be replaced in the opera by new music composed by Ian Cusson, who is of Métis and French-Canadian descent.  The whole story; whats, whys and wherefores, is contained in the linked COC press release.  It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right composer.

COC Media Release – Riel Update – FINAL

Charlotte

Two years ago Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music was presented in workshop form (more or less) at Luminato.  It felt incomplete and rather muddled then and I didn’t write about it.  I saw the latest version yesterday at Hart House Theatre and it feels like a finished piece; indeed a rather accomplished one.

It’s a genre defying work.  Perhaps it’s closer to musical theatre than anything else but it’s not miked and there are some “operatic” moments worked into the plot.  Indeed there are some very funny musical moments and much cleverness in Aleš Březina’s score and Alon Nasman’s libretto.

Charlotte, Theaturtle

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